Young Welsh soprano hits top notes with ease

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2012, 12:00am


Catrin Aur at the Opera
City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong
Academy for Performing Arts

The fiercest verbal fisticuffs that fly around classical music internet forums concern operatic divas. From Maria Callas to Renee Fleming, handbags fly in support of the one deemed to 'own' a particular aria (they all seem to end up owning all of them). The young Welsh soprano Catrin Aur may well become the focus of such partisanship, but not right now.

For her concerts in the Jockey Club Amphitheatre, she gamely selected two Mozart arias to open the programme, a sure barometer for the strength of any singer's mettle. However, that was until the programme underwent surgery and left us with seven Italian arias, five orchestral interludes, three dresses (the second was the tastiest) and no Mozart.

Aur has bagged numerous prizes and engagements, but she might consider dropping from her publicity the award of Young Welsh Singer of the Year by the Morriston Orpheus Choir Supporters' Association. To the untutored ear, this equates to a thumbs-up from a New Territories musical appreciation society.

Aur can certainly pull out the top notes with ease, and was still as strong in the stratosphere when closing the programme with Sempre Libera from Verdi's La Traviata as she had been from the off; tuning was secure, losing its bearings only in the opening to Ciascun Lo Dice from Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment.

The recurrent question mark, however, lay over clarity in articulation, with angular lines often glossed into a fuzz and one scale passage in Casta Diva from Bellini's Norma verging on a trip down a slippery pole. The repetitive formula of the arias became reflected in Aur's delivery, and it will be interesting to hear in the future how she buffs up each one differently into a gem with its own nuanced glint.

Of the orchestral offerings, the prelude to Verdi's La Traviata just about had the edge over the rest. Conductor Gareth Jones elicited little more than tepid commitment and tired intonation from the orchestra. The violins really should have been made much readier for this repertoire, a fact the auditorium's acoustics more than readily highlighted.